The web is filled with enterprise cats: coping with the division of the work-home hole
Enlarge /. Artist's impression of how little your cat cares about your video call.
The future of collaboration
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The Friday "Beer Thirty" Zoom Conferences didn't start in lockdown for long for me. One employee planned it as a form of stress relief and socialization as we were all preparing not to see each other in person for at least a year – and I needed it for someone who had just started the company a few weeks earlier .
Working from home has always been isolating, but in 2020 it has become even more isolated. And for those of us who have worked full time from home in the past – at least for those of us who have done and have done noisy families and children with no idea of personal space – it's also gotten a lot harder to break up maintain between personal and work life. Our spouses and children (and in some cases adult children) are all at home, working or studying, or playing or breathing too loudly in the same room as us at the same time.
For those of you who have never enjoyed the solitude of a home office when everyone else is away from home, trust me: what we have now is not what it has been like working at home for the past 25 years . To adapt to this, organizations need to figure out how to keep teams together without regular social contact. You also need to strike a balance between communication and interference with employees' domestic life while maintaining a coherent work environment so people can talk to each other and get their jobs done.
The path ahead will almost certainly be a combination of measured collaborative communication, measured integration of socialization into the workday, and cat memes.
Enlarge /. Who doesn't love a good business cat?
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Well, maybe not so much with the cat memes – but creating a functioning culture in a distributed workplace requires things that the old office would likely consider detrimental to productivity. Informal communication and socialization using collaboration tools (plus cat memes!) Are important tools for creating a sense of community during the office diaspora.
Who is zooming whom?
Many organizations have turned to collaboration tools to help bridge the isolation and keep their employees healthy. This includes things like the "beer thirty" conference call, but also other icebreakers and interactions that do not fall under what was previously defined as the "business use" of these technologies.
Collaboration tools can give employees a chance to connect and rebuild a sense of community, but they can also give organizations a chance to measure the challenges individuals face when working from home or remotely – and them help create a platform to exchange ideas on how to deal with and overcome these challenges. Good tools can also help establish a new normal for the workflow. They offer employees the opportunity to set up new processes and support structures that might otherwise be missing from home – and to find new working methods in which the employees do not have to be "switched on". for a normal eight-hour working day. advertising
This will be more natural for some organizations than for others. While I was at Ars Technica we were pioneers in that department as we all worked from home. Our "collaboration space" started as an IRC server with public and private channels, then switched to the meme-sharing machine Slack, which allows for both formal collaboration and our version of over-the-top-of-the-cubicle Chatter. I no longer have the keys to get to Orbiting Headquarters, but I am sure that a lot will remain the same. (Pretty much, yes. – Ed.)
Enlarge /. Some people enjoy creative and fun video chat team building exercises with colleagues. The rest of us are stuck in hell.
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In my new organization, Human Resources has tried using Microsoft Teams to formally create that type of social connection, run fun photo contests on global team channels, and conduct other types of contacts – which are much harder to reach with some of the more introverted people with that I work together as, for example, the sales team. My wife's library job is doing many of the same things and lavishly sprinkling Zoom on publicly available programs and team bonding activities.
All of this sharing is great, sure. But it also changes the way we subtly view the separation of "work" and "life". We are now living on a reality TV show, and our home office – or wherever we put ourselves at home to work – is the set. We all learn much more about our home workers' lives than ever before through casual office meetings. And even if you create a fancy virtual background, it won't stop your staff from seeing when a cat is walking across your desk.
This is not exactly something that everyone is comfortable with.